DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!


Aug 19 2013

Books on Bikes

by Jesse M

Books on BikesWe’ve discussed bookmobiles on the blog a couple of times in the past (once in 2010 and again in 2011), but today’s post is about a bookmobile with a slight twist; in addition to having books available for checkout, Seattle Public Library system’s new Books on Bikes program also offers another high-demand library service: internet access.

Conceived by librarian Jared Mills, the Books on Bikes program will feature 11 librarians on bikes hauling custom-made trailers that carry 500lb (227kg) of books, a large sign and a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot. The library-cycles will show up at festivals, parades, and parks, utilizing social media like facebook and twitter to keep the community informed of their upcoming appearances. By breaking down the physical boundaries of the library, Books on Bikes hopes to reach out to a new demographic, the Millennials, whose support of libraries will mean the difference between public libraries growing or becoming obsolete. The pilot project will run through the summer months and officials will decide in October whether to continue the program.

For more information, check out these articles from the Economist and NPR.

Are programs like this the future of library outreach? Would a similar program be successful in your community? Let us know in the comments.


Apr 13 2011

Celebrating The Bookmobile

by Joseph M

It’s National Library Week (see also our previous post for what DCPL is doing for NLW), and today has been designated as a day to recognize bookmobiles. Bookmobiles provide outreach to communities which may not have access to library services. Although the first National Bookmobile Day was celebrated just last year, bookmobiles have a venerable history stretching back over 100 years in America (and even further back in Europe), as described on libraryhistorybuff.com:

The concept and reality of bookmobile service started in Hagerstown, Maryland in April, 1905 when Mary L. Titcomb, the Librarian of the Washington County Free Library, sent out the first book wagon in the United States from the library.

For more information about bookmobiles, try this article from Smithsonian Magazine, or read a related DCPLive blog post from last year. You might also want to explore this nifty documentary website about a bookmobile that travels the country dispensing free library materials in exchange for interviews about books that have changed people’s lives. The bookmobile will occasionally be driven by famous authors.

And last but not least, check out My Librarian Is A Camel, which provides kids with an introduction to the concept of a bookmobile by showcasing some of the more interesting and unusual forms it can take.


The first bookmobile, 1905

According to the Online Dictionary of Library and Information Science, outreach is defined as a library public service program initiated and designed to meet the information needs of an unserved or inadequately served target group.

A bookmobile is a large vehicle designed for use as a library. Since the establishment of the first “library wagon” service in Washington county Maryland in 1905, bookmobiles have remained an important tool in the outreach programs of many libraries. Mary Titcomb, first librarian of the Washington free county library, emphatically made the case for bookmobiles, arguing:

Would not a Library Wagon, the outward and visible signs of the service for which the Library stood, do much more in cementing friendship [than current outreach efforts]?…No better method has ever been devised for reaching the dweller in the country. The book goes to the man, not waiting for the man to come to the book.

The original bookmobile was a wagon drawn by two horses and driven by the library janitor. Bookmobiles have come a long way since then and many variations on the original theme have sprung up.

A pair of notable ones include Columbia’s “biblioburro” (a mobile library transported on donkeys) and Chicago’s book bike (which distributes books donated by publishers at public parks throughout the city).

Closer to home, DCPL had a bookmobile service at one point (briefly detailed here in paragraph five), though this is no longer in operation.  We do, however, have other outreach services including Library Take-Out (where we go into different communities to introduce library services to recent immigrants and residents of DeKalb who are not familiar with the library), Mailbox Books (where we mail books to library patrons who are unable to visit the library), Daycare / School Visits, and many Literacy Outreach programs.